POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Pearl River's baseball program sent 13 Wildcats from last year's World Series team to the next level. Now assistant coach Drew LaBounty is joining them.
The former South Alabama standout has been hired at Arkansas State, the school announced Monday.
"During Drew's hiring process, I knew he would have next level offers very quickly," said Pearl River Coach Michael Avalon, who hired LaBounty fresh off of his playing career at USA. "He's very well thought of in baseball coaching circles. It was only a matter of time until he had an opportunity to go back to the Division I level."
LaBounty did a little bit of everything for Avalon, but primarily worked with Wildcat hitters and fielders in addition to coaching third base.
Under LaBounty's tutelage, the Wildcats ranked second among NJCAA D-II teams in home runs (90) and extra-base hits (237), seventh in runs scored (493) and walks (302), and 39thin batting average (.309).
"I'm excited to see Drew get the opportunity to return to the Division I level," Avalon said. "He has been a very loyal assistant. We entrusted a lot of responsibilities to him. He did a lot with our offense and was crucial to making our hitters some of the best in the country."
LaBounty said he wasn't looking to move on from The River after just one season, but when a number of D-I coaching jobs became open this summer due to the annual shuffling of staffs, he found himself in the mix for a chance he couldn't turn down.
"I'm very excited for this opportunity," he said. "I wasn't really sure coming into this job what would be my next move; everything happened so quickly. It's just a credit to this program and the type of national attention it's getting, going to the regional, going to the World Series and having that level of success.
"Now you're seeing not only players but coaches getting opportunities at the next level. It all goes back to Coach Avalon, the type of program he runs and the type of coaches he brings in. He does a great job with us, teaching us. I know I learned a lot from him this year and it's going to help me a lot in the future."
LaBounty learned a lot in his lone season at The River — beyond merely how to mold hitters into lethal home run threats.
"Coach Avalon has meant a lot to me in my life just in my short amount of time I've been here. I was just talking to him recently about his impact on me and the way he pushed me to be a better coach and better person," LaBounty said. "The way he runs a program is the way I want to run a program. He runs a disciplined program. He wants to win but that's not the only goal in mind. He wants to build his young athletes into men. That type of program and that leader are qualities I want.
"I'm honored to be a part of his program for the short amount of time that I was. This is a place and program I'll never forget."
Likewise, the bond LaBounty, who will still work with the outfielders, infielders and hitters, made with Pearl River will last a lifetime.
"I think the one thing that will stand out the most are the relationships that came about from this place," he said. "The administration is incredible and cares about the college. I've made friendships that I think will last a lifetime. I'm thrilled and anxious for this opportunity but at the same time I'll miss this place and miss the relationships with all those people and the players. That's why you do this job, to help the players as much as you can and help them reach their goals."